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The Joint District 65/202 Committee decided last night, Jan. 9, to recommend that the District 65 and 202 School Boards approve a joint literacy goal at their joint meeting scheduled for Jan. 13.

The proposed overarching goal is: “All students are proficient readers who are college and career ready by the time they reach 12th grade.”

The goal has a long-term horizon. Progress toward meeting the goal will be expected to be made by all students at each grade level, each year. The aspiration is that 100% of the students in the current kindergarten class will be proficient readers and college ready by the time they are seniors at Evanston Township High School.

The goal sets benchmarks to use to monitor progress towards meeting the goal. When students enter kindergarten, they will be expected to be at or above the 50th percentile on the fall ISEL composite score. Third- through eleventh-graders will be expected to meet the benchmark for college and career readiness on a standardized test, for example at or above the 60th percentile in reading on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test which is given to third- through eighth-graders and at or above ACT’s college readiness benchmarks on the PLAN or ACT tests given, respectively, to tenth- and eleventh-graders.   

The goal also sets targets for increasing writing skills for kindergarten through twelfth grades. It also plans to measure progress in increasing proficiency levels for reading and writing in the content areas, such as science and social studies.

Finally, students will be expected to meet or exceed their expected growth targets each year.

Administrators were asked to set the percentage of students expected to meet these benchmarks at each grade level, each year during the next 12 years.

The goal statement recognizes that the goal is “ambitious” and “requires a significant commitment from District 65 and District 202.” In addition, the goal statement says, “Much of what children learn about reading and writing happens outside of school; therefore, we cannot accomplish this goal in isolation. Both districts commit to partnering with community organizations to capitalize on every opportunity to meet this goal.”

At the Committee meeting, District 65 Board member Katie Bailey raised concerns about setting the measure of success at 100 percent of the students being college and career ready and about what appeared to be a short, three-year time frame for the goal as presented to the Committee.

District 202 Board President Gretchen Livingston argued the goal should be aspirational and that it should remain at 100 percent. Committee members concurred, however, that meeting the goal was an ambitious long-term project, and they settled on a twelve-year horizon.

Candance Chow, a District 65 Board member, suggested that the number of assessments and benchmarks used to measure success be narrowed and simplified so the community could more readily understand them and buy into them.  

District 65 Assistant Superintendents Susan Schultz and Ellen Fogelberg said the assessments selected were reliable and age-appropriate and that using multiple assessments gave a better indicator of student growth than using a single assessment.

The assessments identified in the proposed joint goal may be short-lived. District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said the State, in partnership with other states, is expected to implement a new assessment system in the 2014-15 school year. If that happens, the goal makes clear that a score indicating college readiness on those new assessments will be used to measure progress toward meeting the goal.

Tracy Quattrocki, president of the District 65 Board, asked administrators to explain at the upcoming joint school board meeting  how the joint literacy goal ties in with the cradle to career initiative and what efforts will be taken to ensure that it links together with the efforts taken in that initiative.

Jonathan Baum, a member of the District 202 Board, said any goals adopted as part of the cradle to career should be at least as ambitious as those in the joint goal.

Dr. Witherspoon said the joint literacy goal and the cradle to career initiative are consistent and linked together. He said they would explain more explicitly how they fit together at the joint Board meeting.

It is anticipated that the goal statement will be fine-tuned and presented to the full Boards for consideration on Jan. 13.